Republican News · Thursday 20 July 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Battle of the burn hots up

SF opposes incinerator in North East region

Dublin government plans for a network of waste incinerators throughout the 26 Counties are running into trouble and Sinn Féin councillors are to the fore in the battle. The Draft Waste Management Plan for the North East region is now in limbo after council meetings in Louth and Monaghan on Monday, 17 July. In Louth, councillors voted to defer a decision on the Plan, which covers Counties Cavan, Louth, Meath and Monaghan and which relies heavily on incineration. In Monaghan, the Sinn Féin group secured major amendments to the Plan.

This week's developments represent a setback for government plans to impose incineration as the main waste management option throughout the 26 Counties
There is growing concern throughout the country at the prospect of incinerators and the health risk from their emissions. A recent report from the US Environmental Protection Agency showed that 11% of all cancer in the US is attributable to dioxins and that Municipal Solid Waste Incinerators are the major source of dioxins. At present, Ireland has relatively low levels of dioxins.

Sinn Féin councillors in the North East region are opposing incineration. The party's sole councillor on Meath County Council, Joe Reilly was one of four, including two Fine Gael members, who voted against the Plan on 2 July, but the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael majority voted to adopt. On 9 July, the Plan was pushed through Cavan County Council, with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael again combining to defeat a motion from Sinn Féin Councillors Charlie Boylan and Pauline Tully to defer a decision to a special meeting. ``It is totally unacceptable that councillors should have dealt with the many public submissions on the Draft Plan in such a cursory way,'' said Tully and Boylan, who voted against the Plan. ``We had no opportunity for real analysis and debate. A special meeting was promised. Instead this Waste Management Plan has been railroaded through Cavan County Council.''

It was on this Monday, however, that the Plan really ran into trouble. Louth County Council voted by 13 to 11 to defer a decision pending a full and detailed examination of the health implications of incineration. The decision had cross-party support from Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors. Sinn Féin's Arthur Morgan described the decision as ``a success for opponents of incineration''. He said it provides an opportunity to ``reshape the Plan to provide a real waste management strategy which does not rely on incineration''.

The second blow to the Plan came later that day at a three and half hour meeting of Monaghan County Council. The group of six Sinn Féin councillors tabled ten amendments to the Draft Plan. The amendments reflected the detailed response to the Draft Plan which was published by the Sinn Fein Councillors in the North East region and presented by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD. Despite strenuous opposition from consultants MC O'Sullivan, who drafted the Plan and were represented at the meeting, the council adopted a Sinn Féin amendment to extend the door-to-door collection of segregated waste to all households, rather than only towns of 500 or more households as proposed in the Draft Plan. The amendment was proposed by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and seconded by Cllr. Brian MacUaid.

The Sinn Féin councillors also secured amendments, proposed by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and seconded by Noel Keelan, to strengthen the agricultural waste element of the Plan. This was vital given the huge problem of agricultural waste in the North East region, which means that the mushroom and poultry industry cannot expand. The Sinn Féin amendment also committed the council to appoint an Agricultural Waste Officer.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors joined forces to defeat a Sinn Féin motion proposed by Jackie Crowe which sought to remove the incinerator option from the plan. Councillor Crowe and his seconder Councillor Keelan cited the health concerns about incineration and the fact that an incinerator would work against waste reduction as it would require a constant stream of waste to keep it running. The Sinn Féin group was more successful with another amendment requiring industry to meet targets for waste minimisation within the period of the Plan.

There was uproar in the council chamber when the six Sinn Féin councillors voted against the adoption of the Plan. Commenting on the vote, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

``It was with regret that my Sinn Féin colleagues and I were left with no option but to oppose the adoption of the Draft Plan. While we secured eight of the ten amendments we tabled, the inclusion of the very worrying waste incineration option, which we had sought to delete, meant that the Plan had to be opposed. The concerns over the health implications of incineration have not been addressed.''

As the Draft Plan for the North East requires approval by all the county councils, this week's developments represent a setback for government plans to impose incineration as the main waste management option throughout the 26 Counties.

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